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John's Beekeeping Notebook

Beekeeping Development in Moldova

Photographs from my CNFA volunteer assignment during May, 2001


The transition from a centrally-managed economy to free markets presents many challenges for Moldova's beekeepers.  They must create markets for their products, implement new business processes, and improve their technical skills.  There are near-term hardships, but there are also good opportunities to develop businesses.

A beekeeper inspecting a hiveThe Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs (CNFA) is a U.S. government-supported agency dedicated to stimulating international economic growth in developing and emerging world markets.  In May 2001, I had the opportunity to work for 3 weeks with members of a Moldavian beekeeping cooperative to improve their marketing, financial management and production of bee products.  

These are some photographs from my visit.


Bee hives in MoldovaMost bee hives in Moldova are the Russian-style "long" hive design.  This hive design is very labor intensive, since each individual frame of honey must be handled during the harvesting process.Mobile bee house

Some bees are kept in mobile bee houses that are moved to locations near nectar-producing plants (right).
Selling honey at acceptable prices was generally perceived by the beekeepers as their biggest obstacle to financial success.

Many beekeepers I met had a good knowledge of bees but did not use some management techniques that are widely used in the U.S. to encourage populous colonies that produce large honey crops.  These techniques include regularly requeening colonies with prolific, low-swarming young queens, and stimulating brood rearing prior to the spring nectar flow to produce large honey crops.  Vertically-oriented hives would be an improvement too, but that requires a larger financial investment.

Risk of hives being stolen is a major impediment to high-scale honey production.  Beekeepers typically guarded their bee hives day and night, with several beekeepers often sharing this work.   The need to protect hives against theft makes it difficult for beekeepers to expand their number of hives, since the number of hives at a single location is limited by the quantity of nectar-producing plants.     

Moldovian countrysideMoldova is a land with rich soil and a moderate climate that makes it ideal for some agricultural crops.   Sunflower crops, acacia trees and wild flowers are the primary source of nectar for honey production.

acacia flower
Moldova landAcacia trees produce an excellent tasting, near water-white honey that is very slow to crystallize.  Later nectar flows come from wild flowers and sunflowers.

Chisinau, the capital city of MoldovaSome food stores in Moldova's capital, Chisinau, sell imported honey.  In contrast, locally-produced honey is often poorly packed, often with no label, and sold at lower prices on roadsides and in agricultural markets.  

There is no developed export market for Moldova honey, although production costs and proximity to Western Europe make this an attractive opportunity.

A product marketing meetingMy meetings with beekeeping cooperative members focused on: 

  • Product pricing & calculating product profitability

  • Budgeting

  • Queen rearing & improving honey yields

  • Potential new honey and wax products

I advised specific changes to honey purchase prices and sales commissions, recommended improvements to label design, and introduced them to a potential beeswax candle design.       

Preparing queen cellsAurel and John grafting larvaIn addition to formal educational sessions, we raised queens using two methods.  Raising queens is important because young queens are more prolific egg-layers and swarm less than older queens, which usually results in more honey. 


Checking hatching of queensLater during my assignment, we checked the hatched queens.  About half our queens were successful, which is less than ideal but we had to rush a few steps, such as feeding and stocking of nucleus colonies, due to our schedule.

Adrian, Siceanu, Eliza Caiua and John CaldeiraAdrian describes how queens are raisedDuring my visit, a group of 5 Moldova beekeepers and I visited larger-scale beekeeping operations in Romania.  The trip to Romania provided Moldova beekeepers with a first-hand look at beekeepers who are successfully generating incomes from queen rearing, pollen collecting and royal jelly production, as well as honey.  

Adrian Siceanu and Eliza Cauia (at left), both researchers at the Romanian Beekeeping Research and Development Institute, were excellent hosts and guides during our visit.

Here are a few more photos from our visit with Romanian beekeepers:

Inspecting mating successPracticing grafting of bee larva into queen cells At a Romanian queen-rearing location, the beekeepers practiced grafting larva (left), and inspected queen mating colonies (right).

Making foundationWe also observed how beeswax was converted into comb foundation for future use in bee hives. 

Eliza inseminating a queen honey beeAurel inseminates a queenAt the Romanian Beekeeping Research and Development Institute, Eliza Cauia demonstrated how queen bees can be artificially inseminated to control colony genetics (left).  Several Moldova beekeepers then had an opportunity to try inseminating queens. 

Bee productsPacking pollen tabletsAt the Romanian national beekeeping association, the staff showed us the bee products they produce from pollen and propolis that they buy from beekeepers.


A Romanian beekeeper explains royal jelly productionRemoving royal jelly from queen cellsA personal highlight of my trip was learning how royal jelly was produced by a beekeeping family in Romania.  The royal jelly was sold to make products in the health food industry.

The photo at right shows the royal jelly being sucked out of the cells after the larva have been removed.


Pollen trapsA venom collectorWe visited a pollen-trapping beekeeper whose primary income was from pollen trapped from his 80 hives.

He also described the process for collecting bee venom, which can be sold for medicines (right). 




A frame of comb honeyBefore my arrival in Moldova, an earlier CNFA volunteer worked with these beekeepers on introduction of a bottled comb honey product, which they were now producing during the acacia nectar flow.

The acacia honey is ideal for comb honey because it does not crystallize quickly, so it has a long shelf-life.  The cooperative monitors the quality of their comb honey carefully to be sure that only acacia or other slow-crystallizing honey is bottled in the comb.

Honey labelHoney label with contact informationThe Mindria Albinei cooperative produces and sells top-quality, low-moisture honey in bulk and bottled for domestic and foreign markets.  They pack honey from three separate floral sources:  acacia, sunflower, and wildflower.  To buy honey, the association can be contacted at  mindria_albinei@mail.md

 I hope these beekeepers will adopt a few of the ideas I presented to them during my visit, especially the financial analysis to determine appropriate pricing for purchases of honey and product sales, and to understand product profitability.  Also, the need to actively seek new customers, both retail stores and buyers of bulk honey. 

Lamb dinnerThe trip was not all work.  I enjoyed meeting wonderful people, good food and experiences.  I even took some non-beekeeping photos.

CNFA did a great job of managing my assignment.  I highly recommend CNFA to Americans with agri-business skills who are interested in volunteer foreign development work.  


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